Part 2 Luis
How far would you go to cover up a major mistake? And that’s what this obviously was, a major bloody mistake. Someone had relocated samples of a experimental prion and slowly the steps were set in motion for the apocalypse that mankind now faced. But would those in the know make the necessary arrangements to cover up what they’d done, and more importantly was Simon involved? A cover up would be required, to ensure that Saar Biosciences didn’t have to answer to anyone in the bright new dawn of the post apocalyptic world, assuming we survived of course.
How far would I go to cover up a mistake? That thought rumbled backwards and forwards in my mind as I left the little celebration. Simon seemed quite taken by the British girl and it seemed bad even for me to try and interfere, besides I had my suspicions about Simon as well.
What bothered me most was the determination on managements part about a causal link having now been found. That, and the sudden departure of Cecily’s French lab colleagues.
I hurried down to our lab passing some of the internal security troops. It was only as I got to the lab that I realised that a disproportionate amount of them seemed to be out and about compared with normal. They were from a Private Military Company called Raven Force. It had gained a pretty nasty reputation in the Mid-east and Africa but got the job done, and of course they were loyal to whoever hired them first. So I suppose Saar trusted them more than the Swiss troops outside.
Sealing the lab door behind me, I logged onto Simons machine. I’d ‘borrowed’ his codes a few months ago, a habit that had got me into trouble before, but also had given me a head start when my wife had found out about Margaritte.
The screen went live and I quickly flicked through what Simon had been looking at. It was the penultimate item that flash froze my blood. A research project using a prion similar to the one just isolated. Only this one was designed to promise longevity, the irony was delicious, the question was who else knew of this programme. Little scenes from the party flickered through my mind and more suspicions fell into place.
I moved quickly over to my desk and unlocked the bottom drawer. I removed my service automatic, a holster and some spare magazines. I also added a high capacity flash drive. Fixing the holster and magazine pouch in place on my belft (and under my labcoat), I felt a bit more comfortable. Next I took the flash drive over to Simons machine, downloaded the old project file and also the work we had down. Once finished, the drive went into my trouser pocket. My main conundrum was now what to do next.
Technically this was a military project so my best bet was to speak to the Swiss garrison commander. I couldn’t trust the internal security troops as they were under the control of management. That meant getting out into the valley pdq. The missing Frenchmen were also an issue. A quick sweep for them 9or more likely their corpses), then out to the garrison buildings was the best plan.
My mind made out I headed out of the lab
Twenty minutes later I was down on one of the lower levels near to the only access to the ‘Store’ that we had within the base. No-one really worked down here, but I was carrying a clipboard with some papers on it, so that I looked official. To be honest I’d never come down here before and so it took me a while to navigate through the service corridors. So far only two internal security guards had passed me and they didn’t give me a second glance. So therefore it was by complete accident that I stumbled on an entrance to a small lab complex. It looked like it was a clone of my lab, and walking towards me flanked by two of the interior security troops was Helmut Klein.
‘Ah Luis, just the man!’ he said with a broad smile on his face. Klein is the sort of man you instinctively distrust, a sort of uber-Nixon if you like.
“Listen Luis, I’m a bit worried about Simon. Has he seemed any different to you?’
Klein was now right in front of me
“Anyway” he continued “Now that we’ve sourced the prion we need to start re-organising the teams, can you spare a few minutes?”
‘Of course Herr Docktor” I replied and fell into step with him and his goons. Something was very wrong, I could almost taste it. His prattling management speak made the 15 minutes journey to his office seem an eternity.
A further half an hour was wasted on him talking about removing me from working with Simon, the reward was for me to work on a high profile bio-warfare project now that we had the cause of the plague.
The very idea of this did finally freeze me to the core, did this man realize what he was saying? I know people think I have few scruples..mainly due to mistakes I have made over women. But biowarfare? Before the emergency there were still ‘zones’ in Russia that could not be entered due to biowarfare experiments during the soviet era.
Nevertheless I nodded like fool and made encouraging noises where I guessed they were needed. This meant though that by being attentive I lost another hour, but then he threw what the Americans call a curve ball.
“Look Luis I know you’re not stupid. We managed to find out about the prion due to a rather serious accident, our two French colleagues were infected during the week. Now it looks a bit suspicious so keep an eye on young Cecily, won’t you?”
“Of course Herr Docktor”
“Excellent well it’s quite late I’ll let you get on”
Gathering I was dismissed I promptly left his office.
Time was running out, so I head back the way I came. Leaving Klein’s office I felt even more uneasy, you just don’t admit this sort of thing to someone not in your little clique and definitely not to someone like me. I felt an itch between my shoulder blades and decided that there wasn’t the time to go back down to that strange lab, especially as I now basically knew what I might find. That basically left the Swiss army based outside, and to reach them I needed access via the security suite as the exits were sealed at night.
So I needed to go back down to level three. Sighing at all this wasted time, I headed back to the lifts. It took a while for one to appear and the whole time I couldn’t shake this feeling of being watched and of impending doom.
How I was going to worm my way into the security suite was a problem, and I was running out of ideas when I reached the entrance. Only to find it was pretty academic, one of the internal security men was slumped in the doorway having leaked copious amounts of blood onto the floor. The corpse was fortunately keeping the security door from closing, although the doors pressure on the corpse had probably contributed to the amount of blood on the floor. I noticed foot prints leaving the scene as the culprits had seemingly managed to avoid the blood on the way in. Gingerly I used the body as a footbridge and entered the sanctorum of the facility.
Even to someone as life-jaded as I, the suite surprised me. It was clear that almost everywhere in the facility was wired for vision, and it would seem sound. Three large LCD screens took up most of one wall, all with little PiP screens showing multitudes of rooms and their occupants. The scenes I saw explained I think, part of the disdain which many of the internal security troops seemed to treat us with. None of us had any secrets, although some things were probably overlooked due to the sheer volume of feed traffic!
The rest of the room was set up with little work modules and more traditional flat screen LCD monitors (albeit large ones). These work stations had not been unoccupied when they had had their unwelcome visitors. I could see four slumped figures, two with head phones still on and so they probably didn’t know what had hit them.
Scanning all the images I finally found what I was looking for, scenes from the lowest level, the ‘Store’. What I saw was less than good, someone had released the specimens and they were wandering around. Containment came immediately to mind but then I saw that someone had opened up the main doors from the store to the lower levels of the complex.
Snarling and biting back a few choice words I rushed into the control room. Here, there were only three, 21 inch LCD screens for the three supervisors. Only one was supervisor was present, and someone had emptied what looked to be a full magazine into her torso, the force of which had smashed her against a gun rack. Ignoring the body I tried to access the system only to find it locked but not sealed. Someone had programmed the lifts to start moving up and down the shafts automatically and to stay in an open position at the storeroom level for a few minutes…more than enough time to snaffle up a few unsuspecting zombies and transport them to other levels. This meant thatthis ‘someone’ was deliberately trying to kills us all. So engrossed was I in what I could see, that I was oblivious to another’s presence.
“Not too smart really are you?” said a rough voice.
Startled I stood up unsteadily, only to thrown backwards by some well aimed hammer blows to my torso, and the world went black….
I came around feeling slightly euphoic which I believed was due to me bleeding to death, and to be honest I felt wet all over, but then the pain started to leak though, in sharp busts every time I took a breath. So no nice quick death for me then. Patricia would be most happy! A few more minutes and I finally snapped out of my little death fantasy and my wife’s vicious wishes.
“…I hope you stick yourself with one of your own syringes, you bastard! How could you? She’s only a girl” yes a girl of 22 who knew exactly what she wanted, and it wasn’t like I was her first or even fourth..
Anyway back to my current situation, I was covered in blood but mainly from the corpse I’d landed on, that is except for my screwed up coup de grace, which had tracked across my forehead and was bleeding copiously. Slowly I got to my feet feeling for my wounds, that was the next surprise my assassin’s first shots had been very well placed…unfortunately both rounds had hit one of the spare magazines for my service automatic mangling it nicely and by driving the metal box fiercely into my ribs, breaking at least one.
Not wanting to pass judgement on the young lady I had just been lying on top of, I needed to get cleaned up quickly. Luckily I knew that the security centre had its own bathroom so I utilised it quickly after first removing the corpse blocking the security door. Luckily there was a manual door lock which I also engaged and proceeded to clean myself up and change into some spare fatigues that fitted me (well almost).
I knew that time was running out, as I could see what how our specimens were progressing through the facility on the monitors, so it was time to get the hell out of Tijuana. Being in the security suite helped me as well, because it held a small arsenal of military grade weapons that were not well secured. Well only authorised people would be in this room so why bother?
I chose a carbine version of the H&K G36 mainly because in the Spanish Army we used a version of it, although this one was well accessorised. Scavenging some spare magazines I decided it was time to get Simon (and his new girlfriend… if he insisted). Finally I checked the main door status and found it had been opened. No doubt by the perpetrators of this little massacre, but as they had left me little in the way of computer access their kindness would not be dismissed lightly when the time came.
My watch showed that it was nearly one o’clock in the morning and on monitors that the guests from steerage were now making their presence felt with the upper classes. So it was time to move along. Unlocking the door to the suite I checked the hallway on the monitors before slipping away to Simon’s room which was also on this floor. As I reached it a few minutes later I could hear some loud noises (made indistinct by the sound proofing) which tapered off. For once I felt uncomfortable about just barging in. But Simon’s sensitivities had to take second place to the current emergency.
I used a pilfered security card to open the door (pilfered I have to say many months ago, yet again one of my many sins), the lights were out so to minimise time I said “Simon? Its Luis” and activated the flashlight attached to the G36. The high power beam of light transfixed a scene out of an abattoir. There seemed to be blood everywhere and two blood covered figures seemed to writhe on the bed. Only one head turn toward me though, and I was stunned for a moment to look into Simons vacant but still seeing eyes
“Simon?” I asked again like an imbecile, I knew what had happened but my brain just would not connect the dots
It was only after the creature that was Simon uttered a mindless moan that my fingers did the talking, flicking the fire selector to single shot and depressing the trigger three times…each bullet impacting the creatures skull, distributing brain matter amongst the other gore. I then noticed that the other gore covered figure (that I took to be Cecily) was starting to twitch. My analytical consciousness noted this as an acceleration of normal infection times before I almost subconsciously shot her in the skull. Twice.
Escape was my only thought now, as revenge or at least solving this melange of threads had to take second or even third place. One thought struck me though who? Then I remembered the retreating foot prints highlighted in bright arterial blood, two sets of military style boots the third set brogues. My mind did another forward somersault and I thought about Klein and his two little sturmtroopers, but why? Then all the pieces fell into place. Klein was part of Saar’s old guard, he had no interest in the Saar Biosciences being tarred as the ultimate source of the prion. Now that the strain had been isolated, and a possible ‘cure’ or ‘vaccine’ could be worked on. He’d be first against the wall cure or no cure, so he probably had all the data or had deleted it and decided to flee the nest, letting our ‘samples’ do the dirty work. He may even have thought he could come back as the conquering hero after no doubt erasing certain security video files or setting up his little helpers as patsies.
Unfortunately I knew something that he would not have been privy to. Only the senior officers outside were meant to know, but as I accompanied the package from the USA I was also aware. In an alcove just off the main lift shaft was a W-88 nuclear warhead. The idea was that if containment failed the whole lab was to be ‘sterilized’. No pansy French-style neutron bomb event this. Just proper, cleansing thermonuclear fire. It had been determined that because of the levels of research being carried out at the facility, a more virulent strain of whatever caused the outbreak might be discovered and there was no way it could be released on an already struggling world. The timer would already be ticking away. I seemed to remember a time limit of about 6 hours in order to arrange proper triage and evacuation. Unfortunately this left less than 2 hours for me to get the hell out…..and to minimum safe distance.
Now the issue was how to get up to level one with minimal risk, I decided it would have to be up the stairs. There were four stairwells running on each floor but only the two inner ones ran from top to bottom, the outer two connected only the top three floors so I carefully made my way to the far right hand stairwell. Every nerve was tense as I listened out for the traditional staggered footfall of the walking dead but just before I reached my goal I found a trail of blood leading to the stairwell and the door was half open.
This was clearly Klein’s work as well. The stairwell doors had three settings: lockdown, free or semi secured. The first option was obvious, the last one meant that a swipe was needed to open the doors and they would seal shut after use. Free meant that the doors would not close shut, (a maintenance setting mainly). By doing this Klein had given our stumbling friends another set of routes through the complex.
The door had opened into the stairwell landing, so blocking my view into the landing. however I could tell that the trail went up. Stepping carefully around the blood trail I entered the stairwell, looking both up and down and listening for any sounds. Faintly echoing down the stairwell came the sound of moaning. Carefully and quietly I made my way up the stairs, trying to make a minimal amount of noise. Two flights up I could make out a huddled form, taking no chances I raised the carbine to my shoulder and slowly made my way forward.
“Luis?” the voice was faint almost barely audible as the bloodstained figure raised it’s head. It was only then I recognised Rachel although this sorry figure did not seem like the tall, athletic blonde that I had got to know when I first came to the facility.
“Luis help me, I’m hurt” her plea was stronger but then I noticed a tremor hit her body. “Luisssss”, her eyes changed then from being hurt and sentient to being mindless.
Luckily at that range I couldn’t miss and the carbine discharged three rounds into her..its? skull ending the problem before it could begin.
The sound of the shots echoed up the stairwell and I just hoped that they would produce no unwelcome surprises. Gingerly I bypassed Rachel’s corpse and headed up the stairs. Now each floor was separated by 50 meters so it was not a short climb. I kept to the outside of the stairwell, so giving me plenty of opportunity to see what was coming my way. I had no interest to find out what was going on, on the 2nd floor and so kept well away from the doorway as I passed it.
Reaching the 1st floor I found there were few signs of life although just as I entered the hallway I could see two zombies having a problem leaving the lift. Being the public spirited sort of person I am I moved forward and shot both of them in the face.
Fortunately their bodies then blocked the doors of the lift so preventing any more coming up that way
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” a voice shrieked from behind me.
Tense as I was, I spun round and came face to face with one of Klein’s little administrators. He obviously wasn’t fully awake and took a few seconds to realise that he was staring down the barrel of a gun from a distance of about 20 cms!
“Where’s Klein?” I barked
“How would I know? Do you know what time it is, why are you shooting people?” The worm definitely had some backbone I had to give him that.
“The store’s containment is breached” I replied cordially pushing past him, “could be a good time to run and hide!”
A thought then struck me and I headed to the refectory to see who was there.
I opened the doors to find the place in uproar with a good sized crowd of researchers plus other staff haranguing Klein and his two bodyguards, the latter three were closest to the doors and had their backs to me. The main gist of the argument was that everyone wanted to know why the supposedly secured zombies were now loose and causing havoc amongst those who were meant to be researching them. The indignation of the volte face amongst the scientists gave me a few moments humour.
“…everything will be fine, we just need everyone to go back to their rooms. Then we can bring in the troops from outside to clear the levels and we can resecure the storage area” Klein was saying having to raise his voice above the rising tide of discontentment.
It was clear that his platitudes were not working.
I was able to approach the group without being noticed and was only a couple of meters away when someone said
“Look there’s Luis, and he, he has a gun!”
Klein’s men may have been mercenaries but they still knew there job and both started to move. Unfortunately for them it was simply a time and distance calculation. I was in a position to shoot, they had to move to get a shot at me. I had switched the carbine to a 3 round burst and took the one to the left first, and then tracked across to the one on the right resisting the temptation to place a few bullets in Klein back as I tracked the carbines barrel across his torso.
Both bodyguards were wearing some body armour but at that range it was pretty much useless, all the armour achieved was causing the bullets to shed their copper jackets quicker and fragmenting the rounds within both men’s bodies. I suppose in hindsight that did stop any of my co-workers getting hurt. That just left Klein now shaking and slowly turning around
“Luis” he began “Look I can explain..”
“I’m sure you can” I replied cutting him off as I couldn’t be bothered to listen to any drivel and shouldered the carbine
“..No you don’t understand!”
“Oh you are mistaken Herr Klein” I replied “I feel I completely understand what you have done and why” I drew out my service automatic and calmly shot him in both kneecaps.
His screams of pain were quite painful to hear and Max Cousins a microbiologist from Britain actually stepped forward to help only to take a step back when I waved the pistol in his direction.
“Dr Sanchez, what do you think you’re doing?”
I looked at him as if he was an idiot
“Righting a few wrongs, what does it look like? People are dying as we speak and this piece of filth is the cause. All because he’s worried about his share options or something like it.”
I grabbed Klein by his collar and started to drag him away, his wails became more pitiful. Funnily enough though no-one tried to stop me…
Klein was squealing by the time I had dragged him to one of the main stairwells, leaving two thin trails of blood behind him. As we approached the door I released Klein and taking careful hold of the carbine kicked the door inwards where it stayed. No-one was waiting behind it fortunately, and I had a quick look down the well. Down near level three I could just make out a couple of shambling figures slowly making their way up.
Turing back to where I had left Klein I found he had found the courage to try and crawl away, albeit only a couple of meters.
“Naughty, naughty! My friend, I think there are some acquaintances of your coming up the stairs who might want a chat. Shall we?” I swept my arm invitingly towards the open doorway. Klein shrank away. But to no avail as I again grabbed his collar and dragged him toward what was possibly a modern version of the gates to hell.
I was quite oblivious to any of Klein’s discomfort, plea’s or cries. All I could do was remember what he and his co-workers had done and what they were prepared to do to cover that up. I decided to leave him two flights down, still less than halfway to level two. Taking my service automatic out, I waved it in front of his face to gain his attention.
“Looks like you’ll have some company soon Klein, and by rights I should just let them have their wicked way with you. However I’m not that evil, I afraid.” I racked back the slide and let the bullet tumble into the void, I then ejected the magazine and calmly started to removed round after round until only one was left. I could hear the falling rounds clinking as they hit the stairwell occasionally. Slinding the magazine back into the pistol I depressed the slide stop and removed the safety.
I then walked down to the next landing and placed the pistol in the middle, in plain sight and then returned to Klein.
“There you go, I’m giving you the honourable way out. It will mean a bit more pain and you might not make it in time, but then the thought of being eaten alive might speed you up.” I looked down at Klein’s bloodstained, crippled body
“Time for me to go I suppose, I won’t say it was a pleasure, as it wasn’t. Goodbye Klein I hope they’ve saved a pretty horrible place in hell for you” so saying I walked back up the level one.
Exiting the stairwell I felt much better and started walking to the exit. Now as the research facility was not some military grade defence bunker. There was also a fairly normal office building above ground where all the admin work was done. The subterranean part of the facility was reached by an escalator, which descended from the buildings central hall which in itself was a three storey atrium with a mini rainforest. As the escalator entered the subterranean level of the facility there was a security area which had a double security barrier system, firstly a metal barrier (similar to those used to secure shops) and then a Lexan security screen.
At night most of the lights are either dimmed or switched off and the escalators are also turned off to minimise electricity consumption. So in the semi-darkness I was using the tac-light attached to the handguard of the carbine to properly see my way. The problem with such a light was though that it was both bright but directional so I had very little sense of peripheral vision and no night vision at all.
And so I never saw the red tracery of the aiming laser. Thus completely surprising me when the taser barbs hit me. Then I fell twitching to the floor…
As I lay on the floor I could sense the seconds ticking away and my thoughts went down a few floors to the idiot cone which contained 475 kilotonnes of nuclear fire. A bright light shone on my face and I thought “well this is it” and a familiar voice said “funny I thought I’d killed you”
My assailant then half dragged, half carried me to a small café area and hand cuffed me to one of the stone benches
“Is this really necessary? If you going to shoot me?” I asked as the effects of the taser started to wear off.
“Oh I’m not going to shoot you, no need to. You’ll probably get some company coming in the next hour or so. I made sure all the lifts were running again after you fixed them”
I must admit to having been a bit confused by this statement as I only blocked one of the lifts but I let him prattle on.
“lso you seem to be bulletproof so why take the chance?”
My patience then hit a low
“Who are you?”
“No one of any importance, I work for Saar and arrived earlier on today”
“What are you here for”
“Isn’t it obvious? Cleaning the mistakes of others.”
The taser effects were now almost fully gone which is why I jumped half a kilometre when a set of claws latched on each of my shoulders.
“Got any treats? Nice Luis”
It was one of the mated pairs of parrots that live in the atrium, these were African Greys and I would sneak them treats when I could, one of them nibbled at my ear whilst the other one decided to regale us with his version of ‘Waltzing Mathilda’.
My assailant laughed
“Well at least you won’t die by yourself like Klein. That was a nasty way to go”
“Are you expecting me to be remorseful?” I asked
“No, he was an ass and incompetent as well, and well it’s time to be off”
He started to move away as the other parrot decided to join in so I had two loud parrots singing right next to my ears.
“Just piss off why don’t you” I shouted at them, both leapt into the area and hovered there laughing.
“You’re a bad man Luis” said one of them exactly in the same voice as Kristina one of the PA’s who I’d had a quick fling with a month or so ago.
“Everyone’s a critic, eh?” said my assailant. I noticed that he was limping
“Have you been bitten?” I asked nervously
“Oh a couple did get too close, but this outfit is Kevlar lined, I tripped earlier on thanks for your concern!”
I could see a slight gash in the half light and realised he had not realised what had happened, the parrots flew away suddenly, and I took my chance.
“You’re wrong you’ve cut you leg, and you’ve not got too long”
“What or I’ll become a zombie?” he had stopped and was using a torch to check his leg.
“No in an hour or so this will be a wasteland, Klein and your’s actions have set off a timer on a nuclear demolition charge, it’ll go off soon and we’ll all be dead.”
He had turned back towards me, and looked at me as if he was trying to figure out if I was telling him the truth or not. This new twist would have not been good news to his superiors, as a plague of zombies could be got rid of, a pile of radioactive ash however was a definite loss on the balance sheet.
“Oh and I suppose you know the code eh?” he asked in a half joking voice
“No..” I began just as at least three assault rifles opened up on the mystery man “..but I needed you to look at me” I finished off in a small voice as a number of fire teams of the Swiss Army troops filtered into the area. One quickly cut the riot cuffs that were securing me and I was rubbing my wrists when Colonel Marius Von Beck the troops commander arrived.
“Well Major Sanchez making friends and influencing people again I see!”
I liked Colonel Von Beck but sometimes his sense of humour grated; I suppose this was as it was very similar to me own.
“Enough of that Marius, what about the ‘you know what’” I pointed down
He looked puzzled for a moment and then he laughed
“Sorry I wished I could have let this run for a while longer, the ‘you know whats’ timer has been reset. But I suppose things are not good down there?”
“Not as all, Director Klein deliberately breached containment; it looks like we had just discovered a link between the cause of the condition and some research done here a few years ago. I don’t know how many of the research staff have been infected.”
“Well don’t worry about that” he replied “let’s get you cleaned up and then you can be debriefed.” He glanced over to the escalator where one solitary figure was shambling upward “looks like my boys have got their work cut out for them tonight.”
He started to bark out orders, just as one of his fire teams opened fire on the ascending zombie. A Medic led me out towards a waiting jeep to take me to the army’s encampment.
There they saw to my fairly minor wounds and gave me a tranquilizer. When I woke up later I found to my disgust that it had not been all a dream.
Well what happened next? I spent three days being debriefed by various people as well as being prodded by doctors. The information I downloaded from the system was used to arrest a few people in Saar Biosciences (even at this stage there was a sense of need for justice, although I suppose any punishment will wait until the emergency is finally over). I was the hero of the hour as nearly 40% of the research staff in the end were infected and had to be disposed off...well actually that wasn’t quite the truth, we actually used them as guinea pigs, well needs must..
My reward? I was made head of research and the labs were fully taken over by the military because I had worked at USAMRID I ran it like Fort Dietrich. But in the end it needed to go back to civilian control I knew that but didn’t know if my superiors would allow it at least for the foreseeable future.
In the end we found there was no cure but we developed an airborne ‘vaccine’ that would stop the contaminated in their tracks without having to utilise explosives (either normal or the nuclear kind). A year later the emergency was ended and with a much emptied earth mankind planned it’s future anew. Would we learn from our mistakes? Somehow I doubt it….